Penultimate matchday of the Champions League group stage arrives with much on the line
The fifth round of the Champions League group stage is upon us, with 10 places in the next round potentially being sealed. While several clubs cannot finish in the top two of their section, no one is condemned to last place going into this round.
Here is a preview on the week’s action, looking at clinching scenarios across the play.
Group E: Chelsea (7 points), RB Salzburg (6), Milan (4), Dinamo Zagreb (4)
The top two sides in the group go head-to-head in one of Tuesday’s earlier games as RB Salzburg host Chelsea. If the Blues win, they book a spot in the last 16, regardless of the outcome of the other game. Graham Potter’s side will top the group if they win and Dinamo Zagreb does not collect three points. Salzburg cannot win the group regardless of the result, but will progress if they win and Milan fails to do the same.
Speaking of the other match in the group, Milan will travel to Croatia to face Dinamo. The latter will finish bottom if they lose and the other game is drawn. Both sides will remain in contention if the game ends drawn. Milan cannot be eliminated from a knockout round spot this round regardless of what happens.
Group F: Real Madrid (10), RB Leipzig (6), Shakhtar Donetsk (5), Celtic (1)
The defending Champions League winners, Real Madrid, head to Germany to face Leipzig. A point will be enough for the Galacticos to win the group, having clinched a top-2 finish last round. Marco Rose’s Leipzig will join Real in the last 16 with a win plus a Shakhtar defeat. A point will ensure they will compete in Europe in the new year, with Europa League a minimum. Celtic must win however, otherwise Leipzig will be safe from last place.
Celtic welcomes Shakhtar in the other group game, knowing they must win to avoid finishing last. While a round of 16 berth is no longer available to the Scottish champions, a place in the Europa League knockout playoffs is still a possibility. As for Shakhtar, they will enjoy knockout football in the UCL or UEL should they avoid defeat.
Group G: Manchester City (10), Borussia Dortmund (7), Sevilla (2), FC København (2)
There is a common theme of the top two facing each other, and that will continue here. Manchester City will face Borussia Dortmund at the Westfallenstadion, knowing a point will see them top the section. Die Schwartzgelbe will join the Cityzens in the knockout round if they win and/or København does not.
Speaking of the Danish champions, they battle Sevilla in Andalusia. A win for either side will see them finish at least third at the expense of the other, who will end up in last place. The only way for Sevilla to remain alive for second spot is by winning and hoping Dortmund loses.
Group H: PSG (8), Benfica (8), Juventus (3), Maccabi Haifa (3)
Still unbeaten on the season, PSG will host Maccabi Haifa knowing a victory will see them into the next round. They cannot top the group on Tuesday though. A point will be enough if the other game is also drawn. Remarkably, Les Parisiens can still finish last, though that will be impossible if Juventus does not win. The Israelis cannot confirm last place based on Tuesday’s result, but top two will be out of the question if they do not win.
Benfica welcomes Juventus knowing a second straight appearance in the knockouts is in sight. A win will put them there. Benfica’s scenarios are identical to that of PSG, with the same for Juve and Maccabi Haifa. Avoiding complete humiliation will be the goal for the Bianconeri, who have had a turbulent season so far.
Group A: Napoli (12), Liverpool (9), Ajax (3), Rangers (0)
Their incredible performances thus far means Napoli can top their section if they earn more points than Liverpool on Wednesday night. The Serie A pacesetters will host Rangers, who will be without supporters in the stadium for sporting integrity reasons. The Glaswegians will almost certainly be condemned to last place with a defeat, but will do so if Ajax earns more points than them on the night. Last season’s Europa League finalists cannot finish in the top two.
Liverpool heads to Amsterdam in their clash as they take on Ajax. A top two place will go to Jürgen Klopp’s side should they avoid defeat. They can still dream of top spot with a win. Ajax will have to settle for Europa League football if the match is drawn and Napoli prevails at home.
Group B: Club Brugge (10), Porto (6), Atletico Madrid (4), Bayer Leverkusen (3)
The biggest surprise in this season’s competition, Club Brugge has already assured themselves a place in the last 16. Unbeaten through four games and having yet to concede, the Belgian champions face Porto knowing a point will see them finish top. The Portuguese champions can join their opponents in the next round should they win and Atletico Madrid loses the other game.
In the other match, Bayer Leverkusen heads to the Spanish capital knowing a defeat will see them finish last. They will not be able to finish second if they do not better Porto’s result. Atletico Madrid has disappointed in their Champions League campaign so far, amassing just four points in as many matches. They can no longer win the group, but will need to at least match Porto’s result in order to be in the running for second spot come matchday six.
Group C: Bayern Munich (12), Internazionale (7), Barcelona (4), Viktoria Plzen (0)
Xavi’s Barcelona is on the cusp of failing to reach the knockout stage of this tournament for the second year running. Facing Bayern on Wednesday, the Catalans must better Inter’s result otherwise third place will be their ceiling once more. Winning the group is out of the question at this point for the Spanish side. Bayern will do exactly that if they win, and/or if Inter does not.
Speaking of the Nerazzurri, they host Plzen at the San Siro. A win will assure them a place in the knockouts. As long as they match (or better) Barca’s result, they are through. For Viktoria Plzen, realistically a win is required to maintain hopes of third spot, which is the best they can achieve out of this group. A defeat will see them finish bottom, or if they do not earn more points than Barcelona on Wednesday evening.
Group D: Tottenham Hotspur (7), Olympique Marseille (6), Sporting CP (6), Eintracht Frankfurt (4)
Antonio Conte’s Spurs now heads the group, and will make the last 16 if they defeat Sporting CP at home. They will win the group if they collect three points and Frankfurt wins the other game. They will book at least a Europa League spot if both games end level. Sporting cannot be guaranteed a top two finish, though they will be restricted to Europa League at best if they lose and Marseille wins.
The 1992-93 Champions League winners Marseille will head to Germany to take on Frankfurt. A victory plus a Sporting defeat will give the French side a place in the last 16. It would also mean Frankfurt can no longer qualify for the UCL knockout round. In fact, should Oliver Glasner’s men lose while Sporting CP wins, it would result in them finishing bottom with a game to play.